Salvation for William Byron as he survives to win at Darlington

DARLINGTON, SOUTH CAROLINA - MAY 14: William Byron, driver of the #24 Axalta Throwback Chevrolet, takes the checkered flag to win the NASCAR Cup Series Goodyear 400 at Darlington Raceway on May 14, 2023 in Darlington, South Carolina. (Photo by Logan Riely/Getty Images)

William Byron emerged from the chaos of an overtime finish to grab redemption with a win at Darlington Raceway Sunday.

A year after he was bumped on the penultimate lap at Darlington by Joey Logano who went on to win, Sunday Byron took the lead on lap 288 of a scheduled 293 on a restart after Ross Chastain and Kyle Larson got together in front of Byron and Kevin Harvick.

Larson, who led 29 laps on the day and Chastain, who led 93, appeared to be the cars that would settle It all, but Chastain who had restarted on the inside drifted up into Larson in Turn 2 slamming nose first into the outside wall. Larson pushed the car of Chastain sideways halfway down the backstretch before dropping low and moving on. The races eight and final caution set up the overtime finish, the sixth in the first 13 races of the season.

Chastain was out of the race, Larson finished 20th.

Chastain and Larson had come together on an earlier restart squeezing each other into the outside wall on lap 287 but continued.

That seventh caution of the day was for a multi-car crash that happened on lap 282. Polesitter Martin Truex Jr. who led a race high 145 laps and appeared to be the car to beat early in the race winning Stage 1. On the lap 280 restart, Truex in fifth came up in front of last year’s race winner Logano and set off the melee that swept up Truex, Logano and six other cars. Only Truex was forced out of the race finishing 31st.

With Chastain, who won Stage 2, and Larson out of the race, Byron was able to grab the lead on the overtime restart and win by .781 of a second over Harvick who had suffered damage in the late race crash.

Chase Elliott, Brad Keselowski, and Bubba Wallace completed the top five.

Byron, who now has three wins this season, was emotional after it was over.

“Yeah, it’s pretty amazing,” Byron said. “My granddad passed away on Thursday, and just man, I wish my family could be here. Just things have a way of working out, honestly. It just worked out that way today. We didn’t have the best third stage. We just kept battling, and things just kind of come back around.”

There were two multi-car crashes; the late one on lap 282, and a 9 car pileup on lap 195 that was triggered when the car of Erik Jones had a tire come off two laps after the restart for Stage 2 pit stops. Among those who crashed were Daniel Suarez and Austin Dillon, both of whom were out of the race.

Harvick later admitted he probably didn’t have the car to compete for the win and seemed happy with the runner up spot.

“Yeah, we had a good car all day, we just never could get up towards the front,” he said. “…Struggled in traffic today, but we were really good at the second half of the run and just struggled at the beginning of the run. But we had good track position, then had a bad pit stop under green, and then wound up having everything work out there at the end. Didn’t have anything for William. The front is tore up pretty good. But they did a great job and just kind of kept ourselves in the game, and you never know what’s going to happen.”

Chase Elliott also said he felt fortunate to finish third and put the blame for his struggles clearly on himself.

“I feel like our car was plenty good, really, throughout the whole day,” he said. “I just do such a terrible job getting up through traffic. I get stalled out behind guys, and I just feel like people driving cars like mine don’t do that. They tend to get up through there and get to where they belong.”

Harrison Burton scored a season best finish of sixth; Kyle Busch overcame hitting the wall to come home seventh. Justin Haley, Ryan Blaney, and Chris Buescher rounded out the top 10.

The win for Hendrick Motorsports on NASCAR Throwback Weekend was win number 296, and win no. 100 for the 24 car.

Yeah, I’m just thankful that I was able to get in this 24 car,” Byron said. “I was too young at the time I feel like, but growing up, maturing and just having a great team around me, being able to build the core that we have, I have a great group of guys, Rudy, Brandon McSwain, Tyler, my car chief, everybody on the team does a great job preparing good cars, and we work hard at it. It’s nice to see it go our way once.”

NASCAR will hold its exhibition All-Star Race next Sunday at North Wilkesboro Speedway, where the series will race for the first time since 1996.

Photos: NASCAR at Darlington Raceway Sunday May 14, 2023


NASCAR Cup Series Race Results Goodyear 400
Darlington Raceway
Darlington, South Carolina
Sunday, May 14, 2023

1. (4) William Byron, Chevrolet, 295.
2. (20) Kevin Harvick, Ford, 295.
3. (21) Chase Elliott, Chevrolet, 295.
4. (10) Brad Keselowski, Ford, 295.
5. (2) Bubba Wallace, Toyota, 295.
6. (14) Harrison Burton, Ford, 295.
7. (12) Kyle Busch, Chevrolet, 295.
8. (22) Justin Haley, Chevrolet, 295.
9. (11) Ryan Blaney, Ford, 295.
10. (27) Chris Buescher, Ford, 295.
11. (24) Todd Gilliland, Ford, 295.
12. (8) Denny Hamlin, Toyota, 295.
13. (3) Ricky Stenhouse Jr., Chevrolet, 295.
14. (16) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 295.
15. (32) Ryan Preece, Ford, 295.
16. (13) Ty Gibbs #, Toyota, 295.
17. (31) Chase Briscoe, Ford, 295.
18. (15) Joey Logano, Ford, 295.
19. (25) Austin Cindric, Ford, 295.
20. (7) Kyle Larson, Chevrolet, 295.
21. (17) Aric Almirola, Ford, 295.
22. (9) Tyler Reddick, Toyota, 295.
23. (30) AJ Allmendinger, Chevrolet, 294.
24. (34) Corey LaJoie, Chevrolet, 293.
25. (28) Erik Jones, Chevrolet, 293.
26. (29) Noah Gragson #, Chevrolet, 293.
27. (33) Ty Dillon, Chevrolet, 293.
28. (26) Ryan Newman, Ford, 291.
29. (5) Ross Chastain, Chevrolet, Accident, 287.
30. (23) Josh Berry(i), Chevrolet, 286.
31. (1) Martin Truex Jr., Toyota, Accident, 280.
32. (35) BJ McLeod, Chevrolet, Steering, 226.
33. (19) Michael McDowell, Ford, Accident, 200.
34. (6) Daniel Suarez, Chevrolet, Accident, 199.
35. (18) Austin Dillon, Chevrolet, Accident, 196.
36. (36) Brennan Poole(i), Ford, Transmission, 39.

Average Speed of Race Winner: 118.88 mph.
Time of Race: 3 Hrs, 23 Mins, 23 Secs. Margin of Victory: .781 Seconds.
Caution Flags: 8 for 47 laps.
Lead Changes: 19 among 8 drivers.
Lap Leaders: M. Truex Jr. 0;B. Wallace 1;M. Truex Jr. 2-138;R. Blaney 139-141;B. Wallace 142;M. Truex Jr. 143-150;R. Chastain 151-189;K. Larson 190-202;R. Chastain 203-247;K. Harvick 248-251;R. Blaney 252;B. Wallace 253;D. Hamlin 254-262;K. Larson 263-276;R. Chastain 277;K. Larson 278-279;R. Chastain 280-287;W. Byron 288-292;K. Harvick 293;W. Byron 294-295.
Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led): Martin Truex Jr. 2 times for 145 laps; Ross Chastain 4 times for 93 laps; Kyle Larson 3 times for 29 laps; Denny Hamlin 1 time for 9 laps; William Byron 2 times for 7 laps; Kevin Harvick 2 times for 5 laps; Ryan Blaney 2 times for 4 laps; Bubba Wallace 3 times for 3 laps.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 19,24,23,1,8,6,47,4,45,20

Stage #2 Top Ten: 1,8,5,24,6,20,4,12,47,19

Greg Engle